Part two in my vitamin series - Vitamin B (part 1)

This is the second part of my vitamin blog series. This week's focus in on some of the B vitamins.

Hello everyone! This is the second part of my vitamin blog series and I will be talking about vitamin B, actually just some of vitamin B as there are eight types.  But first, if you missed last week’s blog, my name is Caroline Devin of Serenity of Body and Mind and I am a Health and Wellness Coach.   I just started my practice in Glastonbury a few months ago, located at 2389 Main Street, right next to the library.  I help individuals who are looking to lose weight, gain energy or just to feel better.  I do this by teaching about nutrition and simple lifestyle changes.  I don’t advocate “dieting” or quick fixes.  I feel that everyone has the right to be happy and healthy, which means that I don’t propose radical changes to your lifestyle or starvation diets.  I want to guide you on a path to healthier living.

So now that I got the formalities out of the way I will begin about vitamin B.  Vitamin B was the second vitamin to be recognized (after vitamin A).  It was so named because the scientists at the time did not realize that vitamin B was actually many different compounds.  All the B vitamins are water-soluble which means there is little risk of toxicity as they are readily excreted from the body in urine.  This is why when you take a vitamin B supplement your urine is a very bright yellow.  That is from the riboflavin (B-2).

All B vitamins form coenzymes, which mean they help the biological processes that happen in our bodies, such as the process of transforming food into energy.  The B vitamins that I am going to write about today are B-1 (Thiamin), B-2 (Riboflavin), B-3 (Niacin) and B-6.   Many of the B vitamins are found in whole grain which is why when grains began to be processed and refined there was an increase in vitamin B deficiencies.  To combat this problem, vitamins were added back to processed food such as bread, cereal and ground flour.  It is called “enriched” flour on labels.  Unrefined or whole wheat (or grain) flour is healthier but it will go bad much quicker than the refined flour because the germ of the grain contains oil that will go rancid.  It’s best to use whole wheat flour quickly or store it in the freezer for longer storage.

Thiamin (B-1) is found in great quantities, naturally, in sunflower seeds.  Just two ounces contain the daily recommended amount.  Other good sources are pork products and, of course, enriched foods such as bread and cereals.  Thiamin deficiency can cause a disease called Beriberi.  This disease can have many different symptoms such as impaired nervous, cardiovascular, muscle and gastrointestinal systems.  It can cause weakness, difficulty breathing and heart enlargement among other symptoms. Beriberi can be fatal if not treated.  Symptoms of deficiency can begin just fourteen days without thiamin intake.  Thankfully, thiamin deficiency is rare now due to the enrichment of so many food products and the new trend of eating whole grain foods.  Thiamin is not heat stable and cooking may destroy much of the vitamin.

Riboflavin (B-2) is found mainly in enriched food products such as bread and cereal but some natural sources include; milk, mushrooms, spinach, kale and broccoli.  Three ounces of beef liver also contains almost twice the recommended daily amount.  As with thiamin, riboflavin deficiency is rare but symptoms include inflammation of the throat, tongue and mouth and cracking around the corners of the mouth.  Anemia, fatigue and headaches are also symptoms of low riboflavin intake.  Riboflavin is very light sensitive and is easily destroyed by exposure.  This is why milk should be stored in light-blocking packaging.

Niacin (B-3) is most prevalent, naturally, in poultry, meat and fish and in enriched bread, cereal and whole grains.  Coffee and tea also have small amounts of niacin.  Niacin is metabolized from protein, more specifically tryptophan which is the amino acid most well-known for causing that post-holiday turkey-eating sleepiness.  People with adequate protein intake are not at risk for deficiency.  The disease caused by niacin deficiency is pellagra and was a national epidemic in the early 1900’s before the discovery of the niacin connection.  It is estimated that 200,000 people died from pellagra in that time period in the United States.  Today, pellagra is mainly found in Africa in famine areas.  Niacin is also associated with niacin flush which is a tightening and reddening of the skin and can be quite disturbing to those unfamiliar with it but it is generally harmless.  Toxicity is possible with very high supplement doses and can cause stomach upset and even possible liver damage.  Consult with your doctor before using niacin supplements.  Niacin is very heat stable, therefore very little is lost in the cooking process.

Vitamin B-6 can be found in the muscles of animals so poultry, meat and fish have high quantities.  Whole grains again are good sources and carrots, potatoes and bananas are also great non-animal sources.  Toxicity of vitamin B-6 is a real concern for those taking excessive supplements such as bodybuilders and woman treating themselves for the symptoms of PMS.  Toxicity can potentially result in permanent nerve damage.  Deficiency is rare in North America except in cases of very poor diets and alcoholism.  Symptoms may include confusion, depression and convulsions.  B-6 has been shown effective in the treatment of carpel tunnel syndrome and nausea related to pregnancy but please consult your doctor before trying B-6 supplementation.

Eating whole grains, lean meat and fish are excellent ways of getting your daily amount of these B vitamins.  And don’t forget the bananas!

Thank you for reading my blog and stay tuned for next week’s information on the remaining B vitamins; B-12, pantothenic acid, biotin and folate.  Have a great week!

Contact me for a free health consultation and get on your path to wellness! 

(860) 659-5598 or cdevin@serenityofbodyandmind.com


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Claire January 28, 2013 at 05:37 PM
What is a good way to determine if you have any of these B vitamin deficiencies? Are there early warning signs of being deficient?
Rich A January 28, 2013 at 05:37 PM
Very informational, thanks very much!!
Serenity of Body and Mind January 28, 2013 at 09:12 PM
Vitamin deficiencies with most B vitamins are rare, however, for people who eat very little protein run the risk of vitamin B-6 deficiencies and vitamin B-12 is a big concern for those who don't eat any animal products (vegans). Early signs of deficiencies are fatigue and weakness. B vitamins are very important in the energy converting cycles in our bodies. Vitamin B-12 deficiencies display more neurological issues such as shaking, dizziness and feeling like passing out. The best thing to do if you suspect that you are low in these vitamins is get a blood test. Thanks for your question!


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